Nissan Magnite Test Drive Review
We do a detailed road test review of the Nissan Magnite.
Car Tested: Nissan Magnite; Road Test No. 1254; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 6.75 – 10.25 lakhs (est.)
Nissan is launching something worthwhile after a long time and the Magnite has to shoulder the responsibility of taking the brand ahead
Nissan has been taking things rather slowly in the Indian market. Apart from the Kicks that came out in late 2018, the automaker hasn’t really launched any new car of late. In fact, the automaker has a very limited product portfolio which just consists of the Kicks, GT-R and a couple of Datsun models. The automaker is now looking to enter the fierce compact SUV segment and for that, they’ve brought in the Magnite which is a sub-4-metre offering. The Magnite is a very important car for Nissan in India because it’ll redefine the way forward for the manufacturer’s local operations and that can be a make it or break it proposition. So, will the Magnite prove itself to be the knight in shining armour for Nissan?
MotorQuest: The Nissan Magnite is based on the CMF-A+ platform which is shared with the Renault Triber. The CMF-A+ platform is a stretched version of the CMF-A platform that underpins the Renault Kwid. Renault has just revealed the concept version of the upcoming Kiger and this compact SUV will share its underpinnings with the Triber and Magnite too. The Kiger is also expected to come with the same engines as the Magnite.
Exteriors – The Nissan Magnite is a handsome looking car for sure. The large grille, slim LED bi-projector headlamps and the thick slabs of chrome give it that unmistakable Japanese look. Yes, from the front, the Magnite looks more Datsun and less Nissan because of the design of the grille. The sides look clean and the alloys have a snazzy design too. The wheel-arches have been kept big to uplift the stance of the car. The rear looks clean and the tail lights bear some resemblance to the ones on the Triber, in terms of shape. The Magnite has a ground clearance of 205 mm which is quite useful for our roads and it also gets 16-inch tyres as standard on all the variants. Nissan is offering some nice colours with the Magnite and this compact SUV also gets a large rear spoiler which has been integrated rather neatly.
Interiors – The cabin is where you could feel wanting for more. While the interior has an ergonomic layout, you really cannot ignore all the hard plastics on the dashboard, centre console and door pads. Everything feels built to a cost and the fit & finish levels have some room for improvement. The glove box lid doesn’t sit flush with the dashboard panel surrounding it. The cabin lights could have done with better quality too and the non-height-adjustable front seat belts could have got a better-looking mounting point (on the B-pillar) at least. Nissan has equipped the Magnite with a good set of features including a crisp touchscreen infotainment system, digital instrument cluster, automatic climate control, keyless-go with push-button start and cruise control.
The cabin feels practical with many cubby holes and storage spaces while the seats offer great support and comfort
The infotainment system is easy to use and the JBL speakers throw out good quality sound. However, the speakers sound a bit too bright when you turn up the volume to higher levels. The Magnite gets a wireless mobile charging pad and it also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, in wired and wireless forms. The instrument cluster has a very good resolution and the MID shows a lot of information including the TPMS readouts but I personally am not a fan of these graphics and I’d prefer a simple analogue cluster. Some features that are conspicuous by their absence include a sunroof, auto-dimming IRVM and height-adjustable seatbelts at the front.
The front seats offer terrific support and I particularly liked the shape of the seats. The bolstering is very good and the front seats seem good enough for long drives. Upfront you also get a decent number of cubby holes. There are two cup holders in the centre, one large bottle holder in each door but the front armrest doesn’t open, nor can it be slid back and forth. The rear seat also feels quite comfortable. The Magnite’s wheelbase of 2500 mm is exactly the same as the Venue’s and Sonet’s but the Nissan has slightly better knee room. Headroom is also quite decent but because of the width of the car, three full-sized adults will be a tight fit at the rear. The rear seat gets two adjustable headrests and the centre armrest gets two cupholders and a slot to keep your mobile phone. Rear passengers also get AC vents and a 12V charging socket. The boot capacity is 336-litres.
Performance – The Nissan Magnite is offered with two engines. The first one is a 1.0-litre, 3-cyl, NA petrol engine making 72 PS and 96 Nm. This is the same engine which is offered on the Renault Triber and this engine will be available on all the variants of the Magnite. The second engine is also a 1.0-litre unit but a turbocharged one at that. This powerplant makes 100 PS at 5000 RPM and 160 Nm from 2800-3600 RPM in the manual variant while the CVT delivers 152 Nm from 2200-4400 RPM. This engine doesn’t offer the best refinement and quite a few vibrations are felt inside the cabin at idle. Even if you open one of the doors when the car is idling, you’ll notice the doors vibrating.
The Magnite comes with two petrol engine options, a NA unit shared with the Triber and a turbocharged unit, both three-cylinders
The turbocharged engine delivers decent performance. There is some lag that can be felt lower down and the car isn’t very quick off the mark but the mid-range is punchy enough. The peak torque comes in quite late from 2800 RPM and the car accelerates nicely after that. Driveability on the highways is pretty decent but because this car gets a 5-speed MT, 100 km/hr comes in at a higher RPM than what it would have if it was a 6-geared car. If you want to make sudden overtakes on the highway, you’ll have to downshift every time. The engine is quite vocal as well and it also sounds thrashy at high RPMs. While power starts tapering off after 5000 RPM, the engine spins to 6500 RPM before hitting the rev limiter. The 5-speed manual gearbox has well-defined gates but the gear shifts are not very light or smooth. There is some amount of heft to the gear lever but the clutch is fairly light.
Driving Dynamics – The Nissan Magnite rides well and the suspension is pliant enough for our roads. The ride quality isn’t plush or luxurious but does the job and doesn’t get too bothersome even on really poor roads. The compact SUV also remains stable at high speeds but the steering is definitely a sore point because it is vague to a point that it just does not communicate properly with the driver. The steering has some play at the centre and even otherwise, it is far from precise. While it weighs up pretty well at high speeds, it doesn’t seem to generate enough feedback and this gets a bit unnerving at high speeds. The brakes also offer satisfactory stopping power but a sharper pedal bit would’ve been welcome.
Safety And After Sales Service – Nissan is offering dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, Traction Control, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Hydraulic Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist on the Magnite but the latter four features are offered only on the turbo variants. ISOFIX child seat mounts are also offered but if you opt for the XL trim, ISOFIX will be offered again only on the turbo variant and not on the non-turbo trim. Meanwhile, Nissan does need to work on their sales and service network in India. The automaker has a very limited reach and not many customers have had pleasant experiences so if the automaker does want to create a mark with the Magnite, this is the first thing that they’ll have to work on.
Verdict – So that brings us to the big question. Can the Magnite be Nissan’s saviour in India? Well, the Magnite is being launched in a segment which is difficult to crack. The Maruti Vitara Brezza is a well-established product, Tata’s Nexon is another strong contender while the Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet are being lapped up in good numbers as well. Let’s not forget the Ford EcoSport which has been around since a while and is still selling decently while Mahindra is offering the XUV300. Nissan will have to price the Magnite in a way that it undercuts its rivals by a significant margin and not only that, the company will also have to expand their network across the country and offer some attractive warranty + service packages to lure customers to showrooms. It won’t be easy to execute but if Nissan plays it smart with a long term strategy, then it might just work out for them.
What’s Not So Cool
Alternatives – Maruti Vitara Brezza, Tata Nexon, Hyundai Venue, Kia Sonet, Ford EcoSport, Mahindra XUV300, Honda WR-V, Toyota Urban Cruiser
Further Reading –
Nissan Magnite Video Review